Monday, April 23, 2018

World Book Day, Spain

World Book Day doesn't seem to get a lot of attention here in the US, at least not in places where I've lived. It is an internationally recognized day, though, and I remember it being a big event in Spain. I was always told the date was chosen because April 23 is the day both Shakespeare and Cervantes died, not only the same date but the same year as well, 1616. The most celebrated writers from both the English and Spanish canon happened to die on the exact same day. Now that's something worth noting.

Turns out that's not quite true, if what I'm seeing now is correct--Spain was at the time on the Gregorian calendar, but England was still on the Julian, so while they died on the same date, the days were ten days off.

But regardless, a day to celebrate books is always a day to remember. And not only does it commemorate two great writers, April 23 also marks the death of the writer, Garcilaso de la Vega--however not the poet I first thought of when I saw the name (a poet best known for introducing and developing Renaissance poetic styles in Spain), but rather an Incan-Spaniard writer who chronicled the history of the Inca people and is credited as the first writer born in the Americas to have his works spread widely in Europe.

(Silly fact: a classmate of mine performed a song he wrote about the poet de la Vega when we were in Spain, to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun"; it began "Garcilaso de la Vega es my héroe / escúchame, y tú también tendrás la fé"--"Garcilaso de la Vega is my hero / listen to me and you also will have the faith.") (Silly fact #2: any song that fits the tune of "House of the Rising Sun" can also be sung to "Amazing Grace"; and the theme of Gilligan's Island. The more you know...)

So I had no idea about the bigger history or what was going on with the day when I was in Spain twenty years ago, only the most general part about Shakespeare and Cervantes. But a day to visit a bookstore? Well... I was living pretty stingily plus didn't want to have to overload my suitcase coming home about a month later, so I bought one book. I know exactly which one it was and in fact still have it sitting right here, Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer's Leyendas.

But there's more to World Book Day in Spain than the books. It's also a sort of Valentine's Day, and the tradition is not just to buy a book but exchange books with your lover. So as I bought the book, I was handed the receipt...and a rose. What was I supposed to do with the rose? I was friends with my classmates, but there weren't any of them I could see myself giving the rose to do without it being awkward... So I gave the rose to the mother of my host family.

And kept the book for myself.

Happy World Book Day to all. Now go out and buy a book to give away (and a few more for yourself...).

(I have seen the picture above of Shakespeare and Cervantes on various posts and articles about World Book Day but haven't yet found the artist or whom to credit for it. If it's yours and you want credit--or it taken down--please contact me.)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Featured on my local library's blog

A couple of months ago, someone from my local library reached out to me about being featured on the library's blog. Last summer I had added Spire City, Season 1 to the library's offerings, through a program for self-published books. So they wanted to ask me a few questions, mostly about self-publishing. We spent a lovely time talking about the process and writing in general. I may have overstated how easy it is to get a book set up with Amazon--it certainly requires attention to detail for formatting and all that, which maybe isn't clear in my answer there. But definitely as far as where you spend your time and energy, it needs to be much more on writing, revising, editing, and getting experienced eyes on the stories. So the write-up went live on the library blog a couple of days ago, possibly the first of more features to come. To anyone who happens over here from reading that interview, welcome!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Guest post: Lindsey Duncan

Earlier this month I had the honor of visiting Lindsey's blog to talk about the origin of The Silk Betrayal. And now it's her turn to come visit over here. Her SF novel Scylla and Charybdis has just been released. I read the opening chapter(s?) some years ago, when that was all she had written and ready for critiquing, so I'm thrilled to see it published now. Knowing that she is a professional musician, I asked her to write something about how music plays a role in the novel.

Here is her answer:

When Daniel asked me to write about music in Scylla and Charybdis, my first reaction was, “… but there isn’t music in Scylla and Charybdis.

This may sound like an odd declaration from a professional musician, so let me explain.  It’s taken me a long time to get over my self-consciousness about including musicians in my work, and this goes back to my days in science fiction and fantasy fandom, playing in the worlds of other authors.  In fanfiction writing, there is a concept known as the Mary Sue – an “author insert” who is bigger, better and more awesome than the characters of the original work.  They romance the main character (sweep Captain Kirk off his feet, for instance) and generally save the day.  And to me, as a beginning writer, including musicians felt a bit too close to writing a Mary Sue.  I also was afraid that my passion for the topic would get the better of me, and I’d ramble about the technicalities.

Now, even those of you who don't know much about writing can think of the counter-example, that classic piece of writing advice:  write what you know.  Certainly, I've written musician characters since shaking off that first uneasy fear, but more than that, music and musical themes have crept into my fiction, singing out where I least expected it.  And there are, indeed, notes of it in Scylla and Charybdis.

On the space station that Anaea calls home, music appears in a manner both spontaneous and personal.  Rather than formal melodies written by human composers, it is designed to respond to the listener(s) and their mood, sculpted by technology.  I reference the pentatonic mode, a set of five notes (hence the name) that will always harmonize, no matter the combination they are played in.  My harp group plays an improvisation we call "White Strings" because, while in the key of C, playing just the white strings (skipping red Cs and blue Fs), the harps fall into pentatonic sync.

In the wider universe, traces of song appear in the artifact of printed sheet music, in the holographic preservation of orchestral concerts.  Step into a special booth, and one is surrounded by a symphony recorded centuries ago.  I had a lot of fun considering how classical music would have evolved between our now and Anaea’s now, though I must admit that classical music is not my specialty.

Which is not to say that I think music in Anaea’s world is all in the past, either.  In the place she was born, it is continuous, ever-changing … and I’m sure it is in the rest of the universe, too, but with the possibilities of billions more minds.  Musicians are always discovering some part of themselves in old songs.  In our world today, traditional music from centuries ago is alive and evolving, with new compositions written in the style and arrangements sometimes borrowing from jazz and pop, sometimes their own beast.  I have no doubt that this exploration will continue.

That’s a prediction more reliable than flying cars.  Especially ones that look like horse-drawn carriages.

Much thanks, Lindsey. Now everyone go pick up a copy of the novel!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Catching up, "Gasps of the Scaled City"

Another story that came out earlier this year was "Gasps of the Scaled City" in Weird City #2. This story takes a very surreal image--a city that is built into (and out of) a gigantic fish, its scales teased upward into the houses and buildings of the city's residents--and treats it as a secondary fantasy of sorts. All is not well in the city, though the people who live there don't yet realize exactly what is going on...

I remember ten or fifteen years ago there was a mini movement of sorts of fantasy-ish/weird stories set in urban environments. Anyone remember Fantastic Metropolis? Pretty soon, "urban fantasy" came to mean something entirely different, and the movement, if it ever was one, seemed to fade away. But the images of those wildly inventive cities have stayed with me and definitely influenced a lot of my writing--Spire City, certainly. The fish city of "Gasps of the Scaled City" is very much in this vein.

Weird City makes both kindle and print versions of their magazine--the print version has beautiful artwork to accompany each of the stories. So definitely consider getting that version. Issue 2 has seven stories that examine death or resurrection in cities that are far from normal.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Welcome to Pacific City!

For a third iteration in a row, I have a story in SFFWorld's yearly (ish) anthology series. This year they created a shared world of heroes and villains (super and otherwise) set in an imaginary city on North America's western coast, Welcome to Pacific City. The stories I wrote for the last two anthos shared a secondary world of my own, one I hope to return to with more stories, but clearly I couldn't shoehorn that into this year's theme. So I created a story of genetic modification and police brutality that's also, in some ways, a superhero origin story.

Looking through the info I've seen for the other stories, it looks like a fun anthology. And there's some fun info on the setting at the website, in-world tourist info with some guerrilla propaganda woven in. Well worth exploring the site. I always love that kind of detail surrounding an imagined world.

Each of the contributors has been interviewed on topics related to the antho, and those mini interviews are going up, with a new one each day. This past weekend, my mini interview went live. I wasn't planning to claim Robin Hood's mantle, but as I answered the questions, I realized that's how it was coming across. So I ran with it...


Friday, April 06, 2018

Catching up, story in Gallery of Curiosities podcast

This is reaching back into 2017 for this publication, which I never got around to mentioning here at the time. "Against Mint Justice" is in episode 46 of The Gallery of Curiosities, which is a fun podcast of strange and imaginative stories. The podcast host weaves his own story around my story with a framing device. So my story, well narrated by Lesa Whyte, begins just under 5:00 into the episode. You can listen to it on YouTube and on itunes, through the link on the Gallery's website (and no doubt other venues online as well).

"Against Mint Justice" is a Spire City story, a side story that doesn't tie directly in with any of the main characters (except for the title...sort of). In this story I was playing around with the idea of a serial with much shorter episodes. That isn't obvious in the final narration, but if you pay attention you might be able to hear how it splits into four very brief episodes. It tells the story of an urchin girl who steals a flying beetle by mistake.

Monday, April 02, 2018

The origin of The Silk Betrayal

This past weekend I was a guest at the blog of my friend Lindsey Duncan, Unicorn Ramblings. You can go read the story of how The Silk Betrayal came about, and stick around awhile to learn more about Lindsey's lyrical, McKillip-esque writing. She will be coming here in a couple of weeks to visit this blog.